Discussion in 'Japanese Swords and Sword Arts' started by shesulsa, Jan 12, 2007.
The third party reference is your problem. Be honest.
Watch a couple episodes of Mythbusters and see real world results. A katana can not cut through a car, a machine gun or whatever. Proven, scientifically, from all angles, on National TV.
Argument here is pointless. Author of a fiction book says "don't cite my sources". Enough said. Hell, I read the AD&D Arms and Equipment manual too as a kid. They got a ton wrong there too, and they did cite sources.
Anyone got repair information on a Stilsuit? I lost my copy of the Encyclopedia Galactica and the repair notes were jammed in there. What do you mean theres no such thing as a Stilsuit, of AG? Douglas Adams quoted it all the time darn it. You calling him a liar?
What was the topic here again? Fantasy swords and magical powers?
Oh wait, it was a question about sword construction, which several knowledgeable folks answered, in depth from verifiable and proven reliable sources.
Verifiable + proven vs Shhhhhhh.
^------This is the right answer Regis.
If I want fantasy blades, I'll talk to an Elf next time my Tardis materializes in Rivendell.
So you saying people are misinformed based on information you're unwilling to provide is the problem of people who are arguing against you? I mean, there's really nothing to be said after that, you don't seem to want to argue your point, just tell people that they're wrong based upon it.
As far as traditional vs. modern swordmaking, better steel, etc., I don't have much of an opinion. Once I get around to buying a shinken for practice, I will more than likely go for a modern, made-in-china-but-by-a-japanese-smith sword. It's cheaper, I can customize it how I want, and as far as better steel or not, well, I don't see that it will make a huge difference in my practice. We don't cut very often, and the things we do cut (beach mats, makiwara) are unlikely to stress the sword so much that the best steel would be required.
Plus my sensei bought basically the same thing, and if that's good enough for him... And that combined with the fact that old traditional swords would have been made for Japanese and likely it would be hard to find one that matches my requirements, both in style and specifications (2.5 shaku, chu kissaki, and I've got my preference as to shape), well... I'm pretty much set on buying a modern sword. Still, traditional swords have their charm as well...
I simply refuse to go back to the library, dig the book off the shelf, and list the sources for the sake of this thread. Thats all. And for the last damn time this is not a science fiction book. I will conceed that Barns & Noble lists it as science fiction, because the author wrote science fiction in the past, but that is because they are a bunch of idiots; present company excluded.
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EDIT: Removing my message since it's meaningless to argue at this point
To get back on topic, I'll add my opinions to those already expressed in an attempt to answer Jeff's question ...
The quality of today's steel is much better than it's ever been. Modern steel production results in alloys with extremely exact proportions of elements and very even distribution of such. What this means to the craftsman is that heat treatment can be much easier, and can yield much more predictable results. However, the quality of the steel in the blade, and even the heat treatment of it, is only a very small part of what makes a good sword. The quality of the fittings, the fit and finish of the handle and sheath. The polish of the blade, which sets the final balance and sharpness of the sword. These are all just as, if not more important than the composition of the steel in the blade.
There is a large difference between a "useable" sword, and a "good" sword. Most of the inexpensive Japanese style swords coming out of the Chinese companies these days are "useable". This means that they are of sufficient quality that they can be used without fear of them failing catastrophically. However, it is very much true in the Japanese sword world that you get what you pay for. I've personally held, and used, most of the different models of Japanese swords coming out of China. Some of them have performed very well, and some have been pretty nice aesthetically also. Not a single one of them can compare to the custom swords that I've held from America's top craftsmen, or even to relatively inexpensive MA grade nihonto from Japan. The major difference is in the experience and craftsmanship that goes into the fit and finish. A good polish means a sharp sword that feels really nice to swing and looks great. A well made handle with good quality fittings and wrap means the sword will feel good when held, and everything will stay rock solid with no shifting about when used hard. A well made sheath means that it can be drawn and re-sheathed almost effortlessly, besides looking very nice. The Japanese have been perfecting these things for centuries, and a long apprenticeship is required before anyone is allowed to begin working nihonto themselves. The top American craftsmen have been at this for quite a number of years, and their skills have gotten quite good. The Chinese companies have only been producing swords for a short time and, although they have been improving steadily, they are still not that good. In addition, they are trying to produce inexpensive swords, so many corners are cut. It is these corners that make the difference between a useable sword and a good sword.
So, with all that being said, there comes the question of "are traditionally made Japanese blades worth the extra cost outside of being a collectors item?" As in most things, the answer is "it depends." One of my instructors has a high quality traditional Japanese sword that he uses. It cuts like a laser, feels almost weightless when used, and looks beautiful. It is an altogether fantastic sword. Is it worth the 15 thousand or so it would take for me to get one like it? To me it isn't because I don't have that much money that I could spend on a sword. For someone that DID have that much available, it may well be worth it.
Just my thoughts on it.
I didn't know that there were any Japanese smiths working in China... Paul or anybody else, do you know of any?
What you're far more likely to find is a katana made in China by a Chinese smith trained in traditional Japanese swordsmithing techniques.
That's what the Bugei swords are. They're made under the joint supervision of the American owner (James Williams) and Paul Chen in China.
According to Bugei's catalog, Chen's son trained under the renowned Japanese smith Yoshindo Yoshihara. Yoshihara is the smith whose work is the basis of the material on swordsmithing that appears in the book that Flying Crane linked to way back at the beginning of this thread.
I'm like Paul in that I can't spend $15k on a Japanese sword (hell, not many of us can, I don't imagine). So, I settled for a Bugei. Very pleased so far.
I'm not considering a bugei or a paul chen or anything like that, but rather nosyuiaido/swordstore's steel iaito that cuts. I had thought I understood they were made by Japanese smiths, but I could be wrong.
Also, I may end up getting one of Kim Taylor's Chinken, which I would assume are not made by a japanese smith.
Really, it's not the japanese smith that is much concern to me, but rather quality fittings. I do distinguish between paul chen type swords and nosyuiaido steel iaito, but there may be little logic to that other than I generally find Chen's stuff not up to par.
Not Japanese smiths. It used to be Fred Chen who now runs Huanuo Sword forge, but I don't know if he is still the maker. The difference between Swordstore's Chinese made shinken and other folks' is in where the corners are cut. You just have to face the fact that corners have to be cut in order to bring the price of a shinken (true sword, as opposed to non-sharp iaito) done below 4 or 5 thousand dollars. By far, most of the producers of (relatively) inexpensive shinken take advantage of cheaper materials and labor in China to keep the cost down. Some, such as Bugei and Swordstore, have stuff made to their own standards and specifications, and reject anything that doesn't meet their standards. This is why they are both more expensive than most of the other Chinese made vendors. However, they diverge in how they chose to cut corners. Bugei works with the maker in China (Paul Chen and Hanwei forge) to make sure that the craftsmen working on their particular swords are well trained and know that their work will be rejected if it doesn't meet standards. Swordstore chose to have their handles made in Japan, and shipped to the maker in China already completed. This way, Swordstore takes advantage of the more competent people that are already making handles for the higher end iaito. The downside of this approach is that each handle has to be shimmed to fit properly on the nakago (tang) of the sword in China. This is not a problem until you take it apart. You've got to be really careful when putting it back together to make sure that the shims are properly placed so everything is centered and tight.
I've used both Bugei and Swordstore blades. In my personal opinion, the finish and shape of the Bugei blades is prettier, but the fittings and handle wrap are not nearly as nice as the Swordstore. The Swordstore feels better in the hand, but bends easier on a bad cut. The Bugei was a bit less expensive ($300), but not nearly as pretty as the Swordstore. I use the Swordstore blade as my regular kata sword.
I think these points are tremendously important, and thank you for bringing them up.
I don't have experience with Japanese swords, but I do have experience with the Chinese straight sword (jian) and Broadsword (dao). Most of what is readily available on the market today for Chinese style martial artists is incredibly poorly made. The blades are superlight wushu steel, just a toy really, not a true weapon. Even if you manage to find a "better" blade, the hilt and scabbard are amazingly flimsy and poorly done. Most of these feel like they will fly apart in an instant if you even try to do a form with them, much less actually do a cut.
I've done some experimenting with rebuilding these swords. I don't have any blade making knowledge or experience, but I have rebuilt a number of hilts and scabbards, probably 20 or more hilts, and 4 or 5 scabbards. I've managed to find a handful of "better" quality Chinese blades (usually these are jian made in the 1970s or earlier, before the Modern Wushu craze hit and everything just got lighter and junkier). I've also worked with a few blades made by Angus Trim up in Washington State, he makes a good quality blade out of 5160 spring steel, nice dimensions and well balanced.
Anyway, I carve the handles and scabbards out of nice hardwood, and cast solid guards, pommels, and scabbard fittings out of bronze. I even did a couple in silver. This is where many corners are cut in the mass-produced Chinese swords. Having a solid hilt makes a HUGE difference in the performance, and feel of the weapon.
I've sold a handful of them, mostly to my classmates and my sifu, but it takes a lot of work to rebuild these and not many people seem to want to pay for that. It seems that most people in the Chinese arts are content to use a crappy $40 special from Chinatown.
My work is far from perfect, I definitely learn a lot about design, balance, and quality of workmanship as I go along. But the worst of my pieces is still a million times better than the best of these Chinese made pieces.
anyway, I have a photo gallery here on martialtalk, with a number of my pieces on display. Feel free to take a peak, if anyone is curious.
Interesting discussion, anyway.
I just realized there's an error way back in my first post in this thread (post 3).
I said the hardened edge of the blade was made up of a molecular structure called austensite. That's wrong. The edge is made up of another molecular structure called martensite. Sorry about that.
Paul, I'm surprised you didn't catch that...
Not me, I'm strictly a layman! I know there are various crystal structures in the steel of the sword like martensite, bainite, pearlite, cementite, and a few others that I forget. I know that these different structures are responsible for the activities in the blade such as hamon, nie, nioi, sunigashi, ashi, etc ... I've no idea which are responsible for what, and only a hazy idea of how the smiths actually produce the various activities. I'm more into the results rather than what makes those results.
I've looked at the your pictures before. I thought you did a very good job. I agree that very few people are willing to shell out the money for decent craftsmanship, or even understand just how difficult it can be. We've become very spoiled because of inexpensive swords from the factories in China. It was only about ten years ago that a cheap Japanese style sword was a refurbished WWII gunto (with crappy balance!) that ended up costing between $1500 and $2000. I personally am very grateful to the Chinese factories, being "monetarily challenged" as I am.
Same here, Paul. But even us laymen can get very interested in a subject as rich as Japanese swordmaking.
Thanks again for your contributions to this thread.
where would be a good place to order a decent useable sword from
Ive seen the 80 to 200$ swords on ebay and i dont believe they would be good at all for that price
if they are then correct me please
could you leave me a few websites or something that i could order a well made sword from?
.... (continued from last reply)
and why cant i ever find the kiriho zukuri style swords anywhere?
Basically it is using a clay/ ash mixture to give a blade a differential heat treatment. In laymans terms the blade goes from soft at the spine to springy to hard at the edge.
It works like this. After forging the blade to shape a clay/ ash traditional or refractory cement if your modern is applied to the blade. It is graduated from thin wear the hamon will be to think at the spine. It is then brought up to temperature and then quenched in oil, brine or water. This produces the sori or curvature of the blade as well as giving it the hard, springy, soft aspects.
The way it works is the clay acts as an insulater and slows the cooling process. The quicker it cools the harder the carbon steel becomes. The slower it cools the softer the steel will be. The reason the sori or curvature is created is the different cooling rates of the steel. The soft steel will give to the springy and hard steel while cooling, thus the curve. This also creates the Hamon. The hamon shows the line of seperation from the hard steel to the springy/ soft steel.
I left out some of the process but this gives you the general idea. Hope this helps.
I thought a little more explaination on how the hamon is seen would help.
Basically the crystaline structures are tightly compacted at the edge and looser in the body which gives you a line of seperation between the two structures. This is further brought out by polishing or in modern times by etching.123
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